The Central Criminal (Old Bailey) court in London found Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the 60-year-old wealthy former deputy president of the Nigerian senate guilty of organ trafficking, on 23 March, after almost a year of trial.
Equally convicted with him for breaking the Modern Slavery Act 2015 of the United Kingdom were his 56-year-old wife, Beatrice, and a medical “middleman”, 50-year-old Dr Obinna Obeta. They will be sentenced on 5 May and might spend up to 10 years in jail. But once again, the Nigerian ruling class is rallying around Ekweremadu, this time led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who wrote a letter for clemency to the chief clerk of the Old Bailey.
The Ekweremadus took David Ukpo to Britain last year, as a kidney “donor” for their daughter Sonia, who is suffering from a terminal renal ailment. But it turned out that Ukpo, a poor young man hustling to survive in Lagos was tricked into going to London with an offer of £7,000 and promises of opportunities, with it not being made clear that it was all for harvesting his kidney.
Meanwhile, the Ekweremadus lied to the doctors at the Royal Free Hospital where Ukpo’s kidney was to be taken and transplanted to Sonia, at the cost of £80,000, that the young man was Sonia’s cousin. But during pre-surgery counselling, the medical consultants noted Ukpo did not understand the risks involved or the resources he would need for lifelong care after “donating” his kidney at barely 21 years of age.
The Ekweremadus and Dr Obeta threatened to take the young man back to Nigeria if he did not accept surgery even after the hospital warned him of the possible consequences. After all, they had money, and what money cannot do, they believed, does not exist.
At the same time, they started making arrangements for a hospital in Turkey and how to get another hapless poor soul to bear the risk involved in saving their own daughter. David ran away and lived in the streets for some days before heading to a police station out of desperation. And thus did the court saga of Ike Ekweremadu and his family which has gotten to its point of denouement begin.
But, Obasanjo wants the British court to take Ekeremadu’s (and his wife)’s “good character and parental instinct and care into consideration” and thus “tamper justice with mercy.” Before the case got to this stage, federal lawmakers and the Federal government had also demonstrated their support for Ekweremadu.
This time last year, members of both the House of Representatives and Senate resolved to apply diplomatic pressure to ensure justice for the Ekweremadu’s, by which they meant his escaping justice. The Senate even sent an entourage to provide moral support for him in Britain with taxpayers’ money. Not to be left behind, the federal government also hired lawyers in Britain to defend Ekweremadu.
The Nigerian state and several sections of the ruling class have said and done a lot in defence of Ekweremadu. These dwell on his character, and the emotive angle of being a father, which many people share.
But the truth be told, what is at stake here for those who rule us is that Ekweremadu, being one of the rich and powerful people, should not be “reduced” to facing the fate of poor working-class people. As we said in the Socialist Worker last July:
“The billionaire senator exploited the state of poverty in which David lived. And the pauperised state of David in the first place directly results from the failure of the system, which the likes of Ike Ekweremadu benefit from, to give poor people like David the chance of a good life”.
The likes of Obasanjo should spare us all that talk of “good character.” Ekweremadu has acted dishonourably with lies upon lies; to lure David to Britain, to the hospital, to the police, and to the court. And he has continuously done this with the self-assured arrogance of being a big political oga (worth $74 million, to boot!) and thus entitled to take the life or long-term wellness of a poor person for that of his daughter.
Finally, the self-inflicted dilemma of Ekweremadu should not make us lose sight of an aspect of this case that is often overlooked. And this is the irony of Britain’s self-righteous promulgation of a Modern Slavery Act. It is not only the country that benefited the most from the trans-Atlantic slave-trade, and subsequent colonisation of Africa, it has failed to make restitution.
After years of refusing to apologise and indeed blocking the efforts of some other European countries that were involved in the slave trade to do the same, Tony Blair tendered one kind apology in 2007, and that was all.
But “sorry is not enough” from Britain, just as it is not enough for Ekweremadu, especially since the imperialist order which emerged from that era to skew social-economic development against the poor working people in Africa continue to haunt us as new forms of peonage.
The hypocritical British ruling class owes the poor masses of Africa, and it must be made to pay.
by Baba AYE